While I'm partial to David Fincher, The Social Network gives off the impression that social media started with Facebook, which isn't the case. In fact, it wasn't even the first "modern" social media platform or social networking site. The simple truth is, like other technological developments, social media is the result of a long line of predecessors that laid the foundations for what it has become today.
For this installation of our Throwback Thursdays column, we're going to trace the origins of social media, looking at the forms it took prior to Facebook. For purposes of brevity (this topic could fill a book), we're going to focus on the milestones that really paved the way for modern social media.
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The Origins Of Social
To really track the origins of social media, we have to travel back to the early days of the internet. There is no consensus on a singular point where it began, as any research on the subject demonstrates. However, we can say with certainty that there were a few developments that mark the dawning of social media. Here are the major ones.
While it's difficult to nail down one of these as the beginning of social media, they can all be regarded as early manifestations. In one way or another, each exhibited a social component, facilitating communication and sharing among users via the internet. Though much different from how we see social media today, these were the grandparents, the first generation that set the wheels in motion.
More intermediate manifestations - call it the second epoch of social - were more akin to how we see social media today. They truly brought in the "social" aspect of social media into digitally driven communications over the internet. These can be grouped, roughly, into the following two categories.
While they held significant differences, these were the direct predecessors to modern social networks and platforms as we currently understand them. They laid the foundations for later iterations by offering unique, novel features that would be emulated as social media matured in the early 2000s.
Modern Social Media
Despite what many may believe, Facebook wasn't the first modern social media networking service. The turn of the millennium was witness to huge developments in social media, with many different platforms (some that still operate today) emerging. Here are the most significant.
The rest, as they say, is history. Facebook launched in 2004 as a way to connect college students, and today boasts over 1.1 billion users. And just as Facebook wasn't the beginning of social media, it won't be the end. Already, we have seen a number of hugely popular sites emerge, including Twitter and Pinterest. I, for one, am excited to see what direction and forms social media will take in the future.
Daniel is a Content Writer at Search Engine People. He is always experimenting with new formats and looking for creative ways to produce, optimize and promote content. He previously wrote for CanadaOne Magazine and helped create and implement online marketing strategies at Mongrel Media.